Day 42: A day in the life of a photographer

Ah, back from paradise and back to reality. I will save you from the boring details of me unpacking, grocery shopping, running thousands of errands, opening all the mail etc that I had to do to catch up yesterday.

But it is back to work right away with a wedding on Saturday.  Thank goodness for this photographer I love my job and am excited to get right back in the fro.  After my coffee and checking email it is into my office to re-pack all my equipment. I had to pull every thing out and only bring what I really needed on my trip.  So I spent an hour making sure I had everything I needed to get just the right shot.  I get a lot of questions from photographers starting out asking what equipment do they need for a wedding.  Some is very specific and is a MUST have if you are going to shoot weddings.  What a lot of people don’t know is that you shouldn’t use the same equipment for every type of photography although some do overlap.  But there are certain items that are critical to capturing the special moments that make up the bride’s perfect wedding day.  The two most important lenses are the 24-70mm 2.8 and 70-200mm 2.8 Nikkor lenses.  These are the most important for several reasons.  The first most important reason is when you have to shoot in a dark church and they don’t let you use flash you must have a lens that can shoot under dark conditions.  The 2.8 in the description above is what enables you to do that… So those lovely lenses that came with that camera you bought in a box probably won’t cut it.   Also, most semi pro cameras don’t have high enough ISO settings to shoot under dark conditions.  Let’s put it this way, if you spent less than $2500 on your camera is it not a real pro camera.  You may get lucky and have a church with a LOT of windows that will make it possible to shoot with a lesser camera or lens but not if the window is stained glass windows and not if it ends up being a cloudy day either.

To tell if your lens is a 2.8 or not is by looking around the ring on the front around the glass.   It may also be found on the top when you look down at it holding it on your camera body.  If it says 3.5-5.6  or something like that it is not the lens you need.  It needs to start with the 2.8-something or just 2.8.   These lenses are very expensive and range from $1,000 to $1,500 each.  For a new person starting out you can rent them if you have credit. But it would be irresponsible to shoot in a church without them.  I say this because at weddings I continually get people coming up to me telling me their horror stories about their photographer who was probably new and didn’t know what they were doing.  If you are starting out remember weddings are a HUGE responsibility and one of the harder of the types of photography to shoot.  So at least volunteer to assist a known photographer to learn before you start shooting on your own.  Your clients deserve it.  The short lens is for the getting ready shots, shots of couples or anything close up and the long lens is a must have to get a close up look at the bride and groom during the ceremony.  Most churches have very specific rules about not interrupting the ceremony and you want to obey these rules or you may be black listed from the church or worse you will ruin it for the future and they will make it a policy of no photography during the ceremony because they have had too many problems with photographers.  Ok enough on that!  If you at least have those two you will be ok.  Now for the FUN lenses! These are the ones that make your style your style.  This gives your images a creative look in different situations.  You have several options for portrait lenses the 50mm 1.4, 85 1.4, 80 1.8 and probably more.  This just gives your images that dreamy look with the blurry background.  It is really only good for one person at a time because literally you focus on the eye and it will be in focus but even the nose will be just a bit blurry so if two people then one of them will be slightly out of focus. Then a good macro for the details shots. These are tough lenses to learn to shoot with because they literally focus on the head of a pin and can be frustrating for beginners but I love them. I have two, one short and one long.  And lastly a fish eye or wide angle that are good for the dancing shots and make the dance floor come alive. They can capture everything from the left side of your body almost all the way around to the right side of your body.  There are more I can tell you about but you get the idea.

So after about an hour of putting everything in its perfect place then have to put my cards on around my waist.  I only shoot in 2 gig cards because a card can fail and you don’t want your whole wedding sitting on one card. And SHOOT IN RAW!  Jpg is a terrible format and if you end up in a super dark church that even you 2.8 can’t handle then you need to have a little flexibly to lighten your images and jpg gives you VERY little flexibility.  Then lastly I put on my classic black pants and jacket.  You want to meld into the background not be the center of it.  Also, for women pants because you never know what you will have to climb, lay down on or whatever else to get that perfect shot.

I always try to get to my weddings at least 30 minutes before my shoot time.  I sit in the car reformat my cards, put on my gear that saves my neck from further injury from my camera strap.  Then I pull out the camera and lenses I want to start shooting with right away.  And lastly into the church I go.  This church doesn’t allow photography during the ceremony.  My guess is they have had a problem with photographers in the past.  Sometimes it is because the minister or priest is older and finds all the movement in the back distracting.  But if they kick you all the way out of the church it is a pretty good sign they have had bad photographers in the past who didn’t respect the rules.  Luckily this church does have a glass window that they say it is ok to shoot through.  But I am miles away even with my 200 mm AGAIN can you imagine if I was shooting this with a short lens?  The bride and groom would look like ants.  (I will write more about this specific wedding in my next post because I must say they are adorable!)  After that we go into the group shots. I am very careful not to ever let the after shots go any longer than an hour.  People are fine all the way up to 59 minutes but I swear to you it’s like clockwork, the minute you hit 60 minutes you will get the questions of ‘are we almost done?” etc.  This is another good reason to mentor with a photographer.  You need a plan for the group shots so you get people up and down quickly BUT STILL MAKE IT FUN without yelling at people. I use humor all the time and luckily I have a voice that carries.  If you aren’t good at this HIRE someone to do it for you.  Accept your limitations and find an alternative.  I know one wedding planner who is a fabulous wedding planner but a terrible coordinator.  She has this small little mousy voice that no one can hear so no one listens to her.  Therefore it just makes for mass confusion.  Don’t let that be you because most brides don’t hire coordinators and we as photographers along with the DJ’s end up doing most of the coordination.  But I highly recommend hiring a coordinator even if it is just for the day.  (Again make sure you hire a professional, not someone who decided to become a planner because they just planned their own wedding.)  Look at lots of their weddings.  I have shot over 100 weddings and can show you just about anything you want.  A good coordinator who has been in the business can too.  Also, I would talk to a couple of her/his clients as some coordinators are fun and some are down right mean when they coordinate the wedding.  You want it to be fun not a big bummer.

After the posed shots I let everyone go but the bride and groom and then go into the romantic shots. I don’t want anyone watching because it makes it harder for them to be natural with everyone staring at them.  I also usually do this at the reception venue right before we go in since the reception venue is usually prettier than the church.  (USUALLY-check out your venue before you shoot their to make sure.)  Then the rest of the night are those fun candids everyone loves to shoot.

Here is a quick question you should ask yourself before you take someone’s money to shoot their wedding…  “What percentage of my shots are printable images?” Meaning would you spend your own money to print that picture?  Is it a picture of the back of people’s heads?  Really would you print that?  Maybe if it was the bride and groom walking away holding hands but not just of some random guests etc.  When you zoom in on your picture at 1:1 ration is it blurry or soft? If soft KILL IT!  It won’t print well.  Computers are MUCH more forgiving than print.  You can only tell what your image will look like when it prints when at 1:1 ratio.  And don’t assume you are a photographer because you get some great shots. With digital ANYONE (well almost anyone) can get some great shots.  But do you think the bride and groom are going to be happy with even 20 amazing shots?  You need to consistently get great shot, after great shot, after great shot.  And you have to nail all the important ones: walking down the aisle, the kiss, walking back down the aisle, intro to the ballroom, the first dance, the cake, the toasts, the garter & bouquet and the exit. YES ALL OF THEM.  I don’t promote any photographer till they can get all those shots three weddings in a row.  Now keep in mind accidents can always happen.  I had a DJ once walk right in front of me just as the bouquet was thrown.  I got half of the brides body and half of the lovely DJ.  To say I was not happy was an understatement.  Fortunately my assistant got it but it wasn’t my favorite angle to shoot  but these things can happen.   For brides who may be reading this as well as budding photographers the economy has produced a ton of semi-pro photographers.  These are the people who bought a nice camera and think the camera makes the photographer.  This is absolutely not the case.  You have to know how to shoot into the light, shoot in dark situations without it being blurry (and if you are shooting on P in a dark church it WILL be blurry) and shooting in a dark reception during fast action like the bouquet toss. These are usually the shots a new person will blow.  Ok, I feel like this has turned into more of a class than a blog post about my day…  ;  )

So the rest of the reception is a blast.  Everyone is relaxed at this point and having a great time. It is my time to just kick back and shoot everything.  I love those shots of people just being themselves and my bride is so smiley I can’t get enough of her!  She lights up a room.  Before I know it the exit is upon us and the bride and bride’s Mom has chosen bird seed – a classic.  So with soar feet, a soar back and a ton of gear to pack back in the car I go home happy.  It was a beautiful wedding.  But that is not the end of my day.  I have to download all my cards then back them up to a separate drive.   I never erase the cards till I have burned two DVD’s also but I usually do that a little later. It takes another 2 hours to load them copy them to another drive then I can finally go to bed.

The next blog post will be the beautiful bridal portrait from my bride this evening that I can now finally show followed by a slideshow in a couple of days about the happy couples big day! For now this wedding photographer is signing off!

wedding photography

Example of shooting into the light and making it work

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